Watching our future selves say goodbye

These past few weeks have been a bit gut-wrenching as we prepare for the departure of our good friends, Lauren, Mike, and their son Noah. They moved here 4 years ago for Mike’s post-doctoral studies. I met Lauren in a new mom support group when our first children were mere months old. Since the summer and fall of 2007, Lauren and I have grown very close, as have our kids. We’ve shared and griped and commiserated about the joys and frustrations of raising two spirited, defiant, at times down right difficult children. When our kids were about 18 months old, along with a handful of other friends, we were part of an 8 month-long daycare cooperative, in which we took turns pairing up and looking after the half-dozen kids while giving the other moms the morning off. We’ve been in a regular book group for 3 years. We’ve had countless heart to hearts. We’ve watched each other flounder and succeed with the mood swings of a stubborn toddler. And we’ve watched our kids grow to love each other. And now they are leaving, returning to their home in the UK. And it’s been a painful, drawn-out goodbye. And I can’t help but see our family’s future departure in their imminent one.

Over these past couple weeks there have been farewell parties with the kids, a mom’s dinner, and lots of final outings–a chance for our friends to experience all of what the Boston area has to offer, a chance for our kids to bond just a bit more before their lives begin along their individual blurring trajectories, at speeds that can’t help but leave memories and friends behind. Our kids’ lives up until now have been like spools of thread, knotted together at one end and tangled and braided together these last 3 years. But as families move away, across the Atlantic like our friends Lauren, Mike, and Noah, or just to a neighboring town, as have many of our friends in search of more space, it’s as if we’ve taken those spools of thread, once interwoven, and sent them all rolling in their own directions. The life of a child is so vivid with the nowness of everything, it is painful from an adult’s perspective to imagine how quickly my daughter will forget all the people who have mattered so much, like Lauren and Noah. And so we cram in activities and outings, take loads of pictures that can be reviewed endlessly on the computer, on facebook pages, in photo albums compiled from our computer’s photo library. All in hopes to capture forever these relationships for my kids, and for myself. And as we lose just one family this Friday, I can’t help but think about a year from now, when we’ll be the family to leave and we’ll be the ones losing everyone.

I watch Lauren organize all of their belongings, some to travel with them, some to be shipped and delivered sometime between a few weeks and a few months, some to be sold and given away before they leave. I watch her tie up all the loose ends. And I watch her say endless goodbyes with such grace and poise. I wonder how she will deal with Noah’s tears and pleas to see his old friends. I’m sure I will have a fraction of her strength. I’m sure I’ll be a mess. I feel sad just thinking about it.

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